Feast of Christ the King Reflection
Paradox and contradiction confound us, unsettle us … set of teeth on edge; enrages us to destroy any image that contradicts my own banner.
We want to be on the leader board, we want to stand out, to shine and to be recognised, yet at the same time, we embrace the anonymity of the crowd.
Our mimetic nature demands a scapegoat to hide from our own uncomfortable guilt and the humiliation of being unable to redeem ourselves, yet at the other extreme we also demand a supreme commander, an ultimate ruler, an Emperor, a Czar or even our favourite sports or film star to guide us and to lead us and most especially, to divert us from our uncertainty and fear.
In the cracks between these contradictions is to be found our greatest weakness as well as our greatest strength. Here we come face-to-face with the hypocrisy that allows us to make such easy bedfellows with all the deadly sins.
It is also here that we come face-to-face with the great paradox of the power of love that is at the same time totally vulnerable. The greatest is found among the smallest. Honour and power found in the powerless one who came to serve; who comes to us as a servant; who comes to us in the simplicity of bread and wine.
In the midst of this great paradox lies also our greatest shame; our rejection of the vulnerability of love for the glitter of imperial power. This is the journey we are on, a choice made earlier has distracted us from the truth and beauty within us. It is a choice of darkness over light, the choice of illusion over Truth; and so we demanded… “Give us a king … a king like all the other nations have”. And so we also run to place our earthly crown on the head of Jesus, a beautiful blue-eyed Arian who sits meekly in our halls of power as an icon of our domination and of our culture. Jesus rejected such temptation in the desert.
These are the kingdoms that continue to collide as Jesus and Pilate face each other in the Praetorian. All the glittering spender and symbols of imperial power that rules the world facing an imprisoned carpenter, Jesus the servant who washes the feet of his disciples.
Jesus humbles and shames us with our own flirtation and intoxication with those same glittering splendid symbols of imperial power. How often have we used power to dominate rather than to serve? Lord forgive us.
How often we use the symbols of imperial power and our own icons of domination to destroy and to poison the cultures of those we consider inferior? Lord forgive us.
How often we use our own icons of domination to destroy and murder, to distort the face of God and to silence God’s Word that resounds through all creation, in the forests, and in the oceans. ‘But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee, and the fowls of the air and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knows not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? (Job 12:7-9)
The roots of our faith, sometimes tangled and murky, has outgrown our small container and no amount of re-gilding or rebranding can contain the flourishing that must come about; the renewal that will take place.
Saint Augustine admonishes us: Some people, in order to discover God, read books. But there is a great book: the very appearance of created things. Look above you! Look below you! Note it. Read it. God, whom you want to discover, never wrote that book with ink. Instead, He set before your eyes the things that He had made. Can you ask for a louder voice than that? Why! Heaven and earth shout to you: “God made me!” (De Civit. Dei, Book XVI)
Scripture has warned us; Jesus warns us: “look not for Truth, Life, and Light in the imperial courts of earthly power; look not for joy and peace in these places … Look for me among the small, the discarded, the ravaged, the naked, and the poor.” This is where Jesus the Christ, our model, and your guide is to be found.
We know and acknowledge that this great contradiction lies within us. How often we fall short and must we begin again! Today is not a day of triumphant posturing. Today is a day of shame, but also a day possibility: to listen closely so that all may live.
From his throne of earthly power and domination, Pilate is unable to hear Jesus, unable to understand Jesus. The glamour and allure of prestige and domination and are comfortable lifestyle make us deaf to the vulnerability of the voice of love.
It is in communion that we come to see with God’s eyes, to walk with each other as brothers and sisters, to walk with and in God’s creation, seeking to hear always the Word of God, who whispers to us amongst the vulnerable, defeated and rejected: a little child born in an animal stall.
To hear and to encounter this Word of Love for us together as God’s family, yet also for each one of us by name, brings us that peace and that joy that the world cannot give.
Once again during this month of November, we remember all our beloved deceased brothers and sisters, those who have shaped our journey by remembering that small voice of “The leaf”.
I asked the leaf whether it was frightened
because it was autumn and the other leaves were falling.
The leaf told me, “No.
During the whole spring and summer
I was completely alive.
I worked hard to help nourish the tree,
and now much of me is in the tree.
I am not limited by this form.
I am also the whole tree,
and when I go back to the soil,
I will continue to nourish the tree.
So I don’t worry at all.
As I leave this branch and float to the ground,
I will wave to the tree and tell her,
‘I will see you again very soon’.